Forty years ago — that went fast! — I was well into my first year as a reporter on the Gazette. It was just a short stint, but it did change my life.

For most of that first year, I lived in a second-floor room I rented in a white clapboard house on Main Street in Edgartown. The house was owned by Elizabeth Marchant Sanchez, a lovely, playful, white-haired lady with pale-blue schoolteacher glasses that matched her watery eyes. She was a MAR-chint, to those who knew how to pronounce her old Edgartown family name. I didn’t. When I first called her Madame Marchant—Muh-DAM MAR-shonn—she giggled.

Betty Marchant was the granddaughter of an Edgartown whaling captain and the daughter of Charles Marchant, the Gazette’s owner and editor from 1888 to 1920 when Henry Beetle Hough and his new bride, Elizabeth Bowie Hough, took the helm.

Going back to the 1940s, the Houghs and the Gazette had an Edgartown columnist named Bunny Brown, and it was Bunny who pointed me to Betty. That was in May of 1982, when I started at the paper, a couple weeks before graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Two months earlier I had asked my roommate, whose family had a summer home in Massachusetts, if I could interview at the Cape Cod Times in the morning and the Gazette that same afternoon. He said it was possible but that I needed to check the ferry schedule.

Ferry schedule?

I knew nothing.

Through the paper, through Bunny Brown, through Madame Marchant, I fell right into the Island’s deep web.

My path to the Gazette started at Penn. Earlier, actually. I had always wanted a life founded on typed words. My main college hobby was reading bound volumes of The New Yorker in the open stacks of Penn’s main library, Van Pelt. I would pull out a volume, open to a random page and go wherever it took me. I read Talk pieces and tried to guess the writer. (White? Ross? Thurber?) I stumbled upon a Herbert Warren Wind golf piece called North to the Links of Dornoch in an issue dated June 6, 1964. That made a strong impression. (Golf was already more than a hobby for me.) In that same issue, Anne Sexton, John Cheever and William Maxwell all had bylines. The joy of turning pages.

I majored in English and was a reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, the Penn student paper. Some of the best editors I’ve ever had were at there and I thoroughly enjoyed newspapering and its thrills. (The Daily Pennsylvanian stands by its story!) But little made me happier than sitting with those heavy bound volumes of The New Yorker, staying right through the midnight closing in Van Pelt’s expanded hours as finals loomed. I liked the university term Reading Days.

I was in Van Pelt late one December night in 1980 when another student abruptly stood on a reading table and announced in a trembling voice that John Lennon had been fatally shot. Most of us filed out of the library and gathered in front, some students holding up lighters into the dank, awful night. Howard Cosell had broken the news to the world during a Monday Night Football telecast.

By then, I had a strong attachment to a word still in circulation, though its use was already (and appropriately) in decline: newspaperman. In the winter of my senior year, I sent letters and clips to just about every daily paper in New England and one weekly, the Vineyard Gazette, where I was invited to come in for an interview. I saved up enough busboy money —thank you, La Terrasse — to rent a car with cash, buy a car-and-passenger Steamship Authority ticket and make it to Jody Reston’s second-floor office in the paper’s South Summer street home. I interviewed at other papers on that spring-break road trip but the one job offer I got was from the Gazette.

I brought my golf clubs and a tackle box when I moved to the Island. Soon after, I bought a small, secondhand fiberglass sailboat with savings and graduation-gift money. I also bought, for far less money, a rusty sky-blue Chevy Malibu from a man in Gay Head (as it was called then) named Jim Howell. It was an Island car, Mr. Howell explained. In other words, not a car you take off-Island. She died off-Island. I offered the car to a mechanic in Southborough for $50. He said for $50 he’d take it off my hands.

The Gazette was owned then by James B. (Scotty) Reston and his wife Sally. In the 1920s and the early ’30s, as a high school student in Dayton and as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Scotty had been an outstanding golfer with dreams of turning pro, as other Scottish émigrés had done. But Scotty’s mother had grander ambitions for her son and Scotty became a newspaper reporter, in time a celebrated one.

When I got to the Vineyard, Scotty Reston was an old but active columnist at The New York Times. Dick Reston, one of Scotty’s three sons, was the editor of the Gazette. Dick knew his father’s history in golf like he knew his own in baseball. In a complicated case of like father, like son, Dick ended up behind a typewriter, too.

When I started at the paper, everything the reporters wrote came off upright, circa 1955 Royals. They were noisy beasts. The type bars snapping to attention. The ringing bells. The song of rolling ribbons, as yellow copy paper was pulled out with 10 eager fingers.

As I think about it, two of the great, formative sounds of my life have been the clicking tap dance from a manual typewriter and the rhythmic clacking of a golfer in spikes on a brick walkway.

I might add to that the hushed voices of public libraries. The Vineyard had six, each a unique oasis. The Edgartown Public Library in winter was a particular joy for me.

There were four reporters at the paper in that first year: Andy Shanley, Holly Higinbotham, Jim Kelly and me. We were close. Andy, Jim and I had all played recreational golf through high school and college and we played on the Vineyard but only now and again. Work kept us busy.

Jim and I had one memorable fall day when we played golf in the morning at Farm Neck and, after losing many balls, went sailing. About a half-mile off Fuller Street Beach in Edgartown, we capsized. You’re never supposed to leave your boat in those situations, but the current was offshore, and drifting farther out in a sinking plastic tub didn’t seem like a good bet. (One of Kelly’s many bits, even before this episode, involved the theme song from Gilligan’s Island.) We swam for the beach and our lives in 55-degree water and celebrated our survival with dinner at the Beeftender, one of the few year-round restaurants on the Island in those days.

Dick used to chide me for my “sneak time” on the course, but not in a mean-spirited way. I had good company out there. Harvey Ewing, a legend of Vineyard newspapering and the chief of the Cape Cod Times' two-person Vineyard bureau, logged a lot of cool-weather rounds on the Edgartown Golf Club course, an unadorned and charming nine-hole links that had, and has, the benefit of brackishness and age. The course was private but by fall, in my three autumns on the Island, you could find your way on. In other words, it wasn’t cordoned off—it was part of Edgartown. In 1949, Mr. Hough wrote a detailed history of golf on the Vineyard for the Gazette. He cited 10 courses, most of them little informal ones, and the word private doesn’t appear once in his report.

Mr. Hough was not a golfer but he walked every day and believed in the value of open, preserved spaces. I was lucky enough to know him at least a little and a couple times, in bad weather, I was sent to his house to pick up his weekly editorials. He lived in Edgartown, not far from the Gazette office and not far from the golf course. I lived (post-Madame) near the course, too, in a little house in the woods. I could walk down a narrow dirt road and to its eighth tee in five minutes. On the early evenings when I slipped on, nobody seemed to mind, except maybe the many rabbits.

Michael Bamberger was a Gazette reporter from 1982 to 1984. This piece is adapted from his book The Ball in the Air: A Golfing Adventure, to be published on March 28 by Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster.